I, a hysterical NFL consumer who once changed plans to be able to catch starting Nick Mullins, was trying to stay emotionally deprived of the “Odell Beckham JrBecause it looks like it might not matter in the end (and it doesn’t seem like much of a lottery, if we’re being honest). Machine Gun Kelly at the American Music AwardsIt’s something other people seem to enjoy discussing but it wouldn’t dramatically change the day-to-day intrigues of my life.
Beckham just turned 30, after all. He hasn’t had a high-volume productive season since 2019 (74 catches, 1,035 yards, four TDs with the Browns). He tore his ACL at the Super Bowl, and tore it up on Oct. 20. That doesn’t mean he’s not a great guy (I think he is, anyway). That doesn’t mean he’s not working hard (I’ve spoken to the people charged with helping him rehabilitate these injuries, and Beckham’s commitment to coming back is amazing). This simply means that all great receivers have a point where they are more of a useful pacemaker than a leadoff catcher, like Tampa Bay’s Julio Jones. And we’re two cycles of hysteria removed from spending a lot of really emotional coin on Jones.
But, there’s an interesting legacy piece to all of this that’s enticing, even for those of us who claim to know better and don’t feel like indulging in a bit of fruitless hype. Beckham will reportedly choose between the Giants and the Cowboys, and will begin visiting both clubs after Thanksgiving. The Giants and Cowboys meet on Thanksgiving in a game that will go a long way toward defining both the NFC playoff picture and the NFC East standings, which are highly competitive. He is, in other words, making a decision between Door No. 1: playing for an offensive juggernaut with a top-five quarterback (Dak Prescott) and a legitimate No. 1 receiver (CeeDee Lamb) who will hand Beckham generous amounts of one-on-one coverage, or Door No. 2: his former team, who suffers agonizingly from the receiver situation — especially after Monday’s news that rookie Wandell Robinson ripped his ACL — but is still shockingly in contention for the top seed in the conference. Dallas is, without a doubt, the Giants’ most famous rival. One team needs it to function. Another team that wants to make a good situation even better.
While Beckham may have his own reasons for making the decision, it is a choice that could ultimately enhance how we think of him as a footballer. LeBron James showed us that reputation is fluid as long as you play it long enough. We called him a villain when he left the Cavaliers for the Heat (although hanging out with your cool new friends in South Beach is infinitely more attractive than battling it out with your old buddies back home) but you couldn’t care less now what he does on the court. A mostly rhythm player, he has shaped his narrative arc as carefully and orderly as a ball of kinetic sand.
Beckham isn’t James, but he’s occupying the real estate cul-de-sac of our famous sports star. He’s also likely crafting the final chapters of a dizzying career. If he chooses the Cowboys, it’s unlikely he’ll get another chance to return to the Giants and play superhero. If he chooses the Giants, it is unlikely that – with the amount of attention and physical abuse he will receive from opposing defenses in East Rutherford – he will have the power to secure another “lottery” with outbid rivals.
For some of us, the decision is easy. Go back to the place where it all began. There is an undeniable attraction to donning a cape and saving a budding city. And there’s little doubt New York will love Beckham again, as it did when he was playing there nearly a decade ago. I Wrote about this a few years ago. Beckham was an icon who changed the way adults dressed, kids wore their hair, and teammates walked into the facility every day. Its partial and macro effects were noticeable in every area of sports life.
For the rest of us, the decision is equally clear. The Giants eventually got tired of him, and shipped him off to Cleveland, the home of football, where the sun would never again shine on his bright personality. They assumed he was the problem, whether it was true or not.
As for the Cowboys, they have the best passers and pass catchers. They have a more realistic chance of playing meaningful football in late January, especially with Beckham slowly working his way from curiosity to focal point of the game plan like he did with the Rams last season (had he not been injured in the Super Bowl, there’s a good chance he’d earn MVP honors). The game is based on how much Sean McVay rests the game plan on his shoulders).
Whichever team he chooses, the choice itself is what draws us back in. It’s what sticks us to our phones for updates. It is what forces us to care. In the end, we may never again think of it in field terms the way we used to, which is a good thing. He gave us enough. Much more than enough. But this is about more than one convenient scheme. It is about the desires of a person, how he sees himself, how we see him. It’s about revenge and love and where you came from and where you’re going. This is worth investing some time in.
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